A funeral dirge for the dying light.
The true test of any artist is patience, specifically the ability to take one’s time in honing an idea until it fully matures. Though this standard could apply to any sub-genre of music, it is particularly applicable to the several subsets within the doom metal realm, where the moving parts within a song tend to be fewer and more heavily exposed. Wherein the hybrid style of death/doom is concerned, the general tendency has been for a more dank and dissonant musical accompaniment that is still largely of the latter persuasion to be accompanied by an almost exclusively death metal oriented vocal display. However, the evolution of this craft over the past couple decades has allowed for some less predictable combinations of elements to emerge, and a relatively young quintet out of Belgium known as Marche Funebre has offered up a truly unique variant of the classic British death/doom sound on their latest LP.
“Einderlicht,” which roughly translates to The Ending Light, draws heavily from the examples put forth in the early to mid 1990s by such noted pioneering acts as My Dying Bride and Anathema. The songwriting formula tends towards a very drawn out and gradualist character, often flirting with and surpassing the 10 minute mark within an individual track, and the atmosphere tends towards a dense and dreary demeanor. However, the stylistic presentation includes a fair bit of the Gothic stylings that have crept into the style as the turn of the millennium drew closer, particularly the mixture of beastly groans and ultra-clean singing provided by front man Arne Vandenhoeck. Combined with a musical presentation that is a bit more versatile and draws a tad more from a more traditional old school death metal well, it results in a more nuanced and intricate variation on the classic death/doom sound that comes off as rooted in tradition, yet not as a full on throwback.
While the dueling vocal personas on display here are highly consequential, the surrounding instrumentation proves even more interesting, particularly in the case of how the guitars interact with each other and the rest of the music. Peter Egberghs’ status as lead guitarist doesn’t begin and end with a few token melodic hooks here and there, but often showcases an instrumental presence about as harmonically consequential as the vocals that it plays against. Whether it be the extended, mellow jam session that kicks off opening anthem “Scarred” with an ultra-depressive jazzy/bluesy character, or the frequent melodic additives provided on the rocking, semi-Gothic “The Maelstrom Mute” (which features this band veering completely out of the death metal style), his parts often make the difference between these drawn out compositions being overly repetitious and having the right amount of variation and development to avoid becoming hypnotic.
Each song on here presents a level of versatility that occasionally stretches the definition of death/doom, all the while things stay recognizably rooted in the style’s core principles that it never abandons it. The more up tempo “The Eye Of The End” presents a more percussive approach to rhythmic guitar riffing that is a bit closer to an early Autopsy sound, and the recurring lead guitar lines could almost be construed as a slower version of a Chuck Schuldiner lick, yet the dense atmosphere and groaning vocal quality maintains a remnant of the doom side of the coin. The same story is told with a longer length and a tad bit more of a melodeath tinge on “Deformed”, to similarly strong effect. On the other hand, the serene and somber balladry that introduces and recurs along the epic journeys that are “When All Is Said” and title offering “Einderlicht”, it trades blows with a more traditionally rooted death/doom approach that builds to an explosive apex point.
If nothing else, this is the sort of album that will play to the average consumer of this style by showcasing the familiar, yet mix it up to the point that it will come off as exceedingly fresh and current. It reveals a care to detail and an expansive arsenal of inspiration that makes these exceedingly long songs more accessible, both to those who may prefer the shorter mode of songwriting typical to Paradise Lost or Tiamat, and even to those who lean towards the more commercial Gothic sound that many of these bands would transition towards in the 2000s. It’s still an acquired taste and a sizable time investment for anyone outside of doom metal circles, but functions well as an introduction to the extreme side of said sub-genre’s coin for those who have only experienced it through the lens of bands like Type O Negative or Danzig. It’s a sad march towards one’s final resting place, containing all the obligatory woe and agony, but a fulfilling one as well.
Released by: Hypnotic Dirge Records
Released Date: September 25th, 2020
Genre: Doom Metal
- Dennis Lefebvre / Drums
- Peter Egberghs / Guitars (lead), Vocals (additional)
- Kurt Blommé / Guitars (rhythm)
- Arne Vandenhoeck / Vocals (lead)
- Boris Iolis / Bass, Vocals (additional)
- The Eye of The End
- When All Is Said
- The Maelstrom Mute
Following the tradition of such U.K. death/doom icons as My Dying Bride and Anathema, both in their seminal and current incarnations, this younger Belgian outfit balances sorrow and rage masterfully on their fourth full length studio foray, making time for some interesting innovations in the process.